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Date: Tue, 24 Feb 1998 16:51:53 -0500
From: "Joseph M. Reagle Jr." <email@example.com>
Subject: Re: Patent pending: Network-based classified information systems.
Cc: Dudley Mills <firstname.lastname@example.org>
I thought I would offer a quick opinion on this topic along side the other
very good points.
The Business Case:
Localized information services are a "big thing." When I was consulting in
NYC in '96, we were hot to trot on this, and such services as "Seattle
Sidewalks" were expected to be uncharacteristically popular and profitable
Street Guide: (article starting with Zagat regarding city guides.)
I know I read a better/complete story on this phenomena on this somewhere,
but can't find it on the Web.
Though I can't get through to the URL Dudley provides, he is essentially
trying to patent a DTD (in SGML/XML lingo), schema (RDF), or rating system
(PICS). I gave some thought to protecting PICS labels and schemas in an RSAC
case study I did at Sloan a few years ago.
I dismissed the patenting of a rating system because I did not feel it
would be novel or unique, but Dudley has shown evidence to the contrary.
(That SGML tag patents have in fact been granted by the US office.) In PICS
land, the technical solution was partly the use of signed labels, and the
fact that systems are referenced by a URI, which the schema/service owners
control and could put trademarks in.
As we've talked about at the W3C, building schemas is going to be a very
cool business in the upcoming years, and I expect to see a lot of legal
contention on the topic. A cool VC idea would be to develop a XML/DTD, and
RDF schema consultancy shop with a nasty legal litigation group on the side.
I haven't a clue as to whether or how "schemas" will be protected as IP in
the future. A question I've asked, but never received an adequate answer to
is exactly how does the MPAA protect its schema (G, PG, PG-14, R, NR)? Do
large movies have to licence or pay a fee to the MPAA to receive a rating.
If they refused to pay, could they rate it themselves without including the
MPAA trademark terms or fanciful logos and get away with it? I'll ask Jack
Valenti next time I see him. <smile>
I guess the closest thing to a "schema," which is what people should be
thinking about, is a data-base structure, and this does seem to fall under
patent grants and rulings. However, many, many things will be able to be
represented in schema and I wonder whether patents are really the right
legal instrument for the future.
>---------- Forwarded message ----------
>From: Dudley Mills <email@example.com>
>Date: Wed, 18 Feb 1998 14:16:36 +1100
>Subject: Patent pending: Network-based classified information systems.
>Resent-Date: Tue, 17 Feb 1998 22:17:50 -0500 (EST)
>Improving Web Searchability.
>Typically, when people want to find a nearby provider of a product or
>service, they pick up the local yellow pages telephone directory book.
>If they want to find a person or business, they use the white pages
>telephone directory book. In a library they use a subject calatogue or
>browse books on shelves in a subject area.
>The web offers a lot to savvy searchers but fails on these more prosaic
>With your help I aim to change that. Please have a look at:
>To give some indication of what I am aiming for compare the processes of
>finding a nearby suitable motor vehicle repairer using:
>1. a web search engine,
>2. an online yellow pages database, and
>3. your local yellow pages book.
>Getting useful results from the search engine probably took a fair
>amount of fiddling with the search criteria and resulted in few relevant
>hits, lots of irrelevant hits and an unknown number of misses. Repairers
>do not advertise on the web for just that reason. They know that
>spending a $1,000 each year on an advertisement in the yellow pages is
>worth much more than spending, once only, $1,000 on a web site even if
>the web site content is better.
>The yellow pages database probably gave a better result because you
>were able to limit the search to the category "motor vehicle repairer"
>and the nearby geographic area. For some businesses who paid for the
>service, you may see display advertisements taken from your local yellow
>pages book or links to web pages. However, for most businesses you
>probably only saw a name, address and telephone numbers and no details
>to help you select the right repairer for you.
>The yellow pages book probably gave the best result in terms of
>completeness and detail but you probably spent a lot of time scanning
>for a repairer who claimed to have the particual skills you need such as
>experience with a particular brand of vehicle. You probably also spent
>a lot of time working out which of the more suitable repairers were
>near enough to you.
>In my patent I have tried to provide web searching technology which
>can automatically build yellow pages, white pages and library subject
>catalogue like search engine databases from web pages containing simple,
>easily understood and structured classification, contact and geographic
>data which is largely compatible with legacy web browsers.
>Whether this patent is granted or not is immaterial to the adoption of
>the technology disclosed in the patent. What is needed is much improved
>web searching. To be the slightest use, the technology I disclose in my
>patent must be adopted widely. Realistically, therefore, any licensing
>costs and fees must not be a significant factor in whether or not the
>technology is adopted.
>Whether you think my ideas are good, bad or indifferent, I would like
>your comments. Surely we can improve web searchability without making
>web page construction difficult?
>30 Hutchison Crescent, Kambah, ACT 2902, Australia.
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Joseph Reagle Jr. W3C: http://www.w3.org/People/Reagle/
Policy Analyst Personal: http://web.mit.edu/reagle/www/